Clemson likely returning to NIT in March

Clemson’s Jordan Roper (20) and Landry Nnoko (35) leave the court after falling to SMU in the semifinals of the NIT last April in New York. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II/File)

Don’t cue up the somber goodbye ballads for Littlejohn Coliseum just yet.

The postseason prognosis for Clemson’s men’s basketball is pointed, as it was last year at this time, toward March’s consolation bracket. Barring a miraculous ACC tournament run or a massive late-season meltdown, a National Invitation Tournament invitation seems to be Clemson’s expected outcome, and at least one more home game is likely in tow.

Big Apple Buckets, a website that annually conducts its own version of NIT bracketology, projects Clemson a No. 3-seed, which would match last year’s position. This makes sense — the Tigers entered last year’s NIT with a Ratings Percentage Index of 79, and they’re currently sitting at No. 84 in the RPI.

Clemson officials have confirmed to The Post and Courier that Clemson is prepared to host NIT games again, since major renovations to Littlejohn will not begin until May.

Clemson (15-12, 7-8 ACC) has fared decently against the middle class, but struggled against the upper tier. The Tigers are 4-2 against teams with a RPI between 51 and 100 — boasting wins over N.C. State, LSU and Syracuse — but they’re 2-5 against the top 50.

Clemson’s 4-5 mark against teams projected to make the NCAA tournament in ESPN bracketologist Joe Lunardi’s latest release is a bit more impressive, but it’s offset by losses to South Carolina, Florida State, Georgia Tech, Rutgers, Gardner-Webb and Winthrop.

In the Tigers’ three most high-profile tests of the season, they lost by 24 to North Carolina, 23 at Virginia and 22 at Duke.

Not too long ago, Clemson was squarely on the NCAA tournament bubble, but that was burst with losses in four of its last five games. The Tigers failed to reach 60 points in all four of those defeats.

“This is a week we need to get our minds right by getting more shots than normal,” head coach Brad Brownell said Monday. “Maybe have a longer practice some days on some offensive schemes. But I don’t foresee any drastic changes in our lineup or anything of that nature.”

The home stretch involves Saturday’s Senior Day vs. Georgia Tech, Tuesday’s final regular-season game at Littlejohn in its current state vs. N.C. State and the ACC finale March 7 at Notre Dame. The ACC Tournament is March 10-14 in Greensboro, and Selection Sunday is March 15.

Clemson made the NIT semifinals in New York City last spring, beating Georgia State, Illinois and Belmont at home before falling to SMU at Madison Square Garden to cap a 23-win season. The Tigers are 18-15 overall in the NIT, with three trips to New York (they made the finals in 1999 and 2007.)